NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Several hospital groups in Hampton Roads announced that they have begun in-house testing.
Sentara Healthcare says it’s now processing COVID-19 tests in-house at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to help shorten the wait for test results.
The announcement comes less than a week after Sentara decided to end its Hampton Roads drive-thru testing sites, mainly because tests result sent to off-site commercial laboratories were taking about 10 or more days to process.
Eric Young is director of Laboratory Services for Sentara HealthCare, and said making testing in-house has been an extensive process.
“We’ve had a team working on this 24/7 for about three and half weeks to bring this testing in-house. We’ve acquired equipment, built a whole new lab, took over a conference room, and got equipment supplies and materials from all over the place to provide the testing we needed,” he said.
Sentara is using the Abbott m2000 RealTime system. Lab results are back within 24 to 48 hours, not the eight to 10 days that the private labs like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics are taking due to unrelenting demand.
Young points out this is not the Abbott Point of Care test that detects coronavirus in as little as five minutes. Young says those tests are done one at a time, while the Sentara equipment will test 96 at a time.
The testing system is for use only under Emergency Use Authorization,
“We haven’t had time to do clinical trials. Usually, if you come out with a test like this you are looking at 6 to 12 months to bring it to market, and we don’t have time for that,” he said.
We asked Young what lead to Sentara thinking they had to do something different.
“We have been working on this non-stop for a month trying to get this lab up and running because we knew we were going to need to provide the testing to our clinicians and our patients,” Young said.
Sentara’s goal is to incrementally increase testing capacity to at least 1,000 tests per day, with test results returning within 24 to 48 hours. The processing site at Norfolk General will also allow them to expand testing at all Sentara hospitals across Virginia and North Carolina.
“One point you have the supply and demand issue, and that has been at the core of the coronavirus testing. We need more supply of tests… and we need them returned quickly… That is what we are doing here in launching this lab, increasing our supply for our residents in Hampton Roads, and Virginia,” Young said.
Also announced on Monday, April 6, a new COVID-19 online assessment tool (the red button on the right side of the web page) which can help people decide if they need to get a test.
Sentara says it’s also coming up with creative ways to protect employees, including partnering with Virginia companies, schools and churches to acquire crucially needed personal protective equipment. They’re also testing ways to disinfect and reuse PPE, like methods used at health systems such as Stanford and Duke. Though Sentara says no employee will use a reprocessed mask until they’re confident the equipment will work.
The Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) also began its own COVID-19 testing on April 6 at the CHKD laboratory. According to Mary-Margaret Fisher, CHKD laboratory operations manager, CHKD purchased the analyzer equipment two years ago that is now using for this testing.
Click here to view an interactive map of the latest confirmed cases of COVID-91. The number of confirmed cases from VDH is likely significantly lower than Virginia’s actual number due to lack of testing.
Velocity Urgent Care
Beginning April 8, the Virginia Beach Red Mill and Newport News J Clyde Morris locations will have drive-up COVID-19 testing Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Patient First is offering coronavirus testing at two locations in Chesapeake and Hampton.
Patient First will offer drive-up coronavirus testing at its Battlefield Boulevard and Mercury Boulevard locations, in Chesapeake and Hampton respectively.
Testing will be done by appointment only, every day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.